Diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration could be possible through a blood test

14 September 17

written by:

Yewande Omoniyi

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Researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear have discovered a group of metabolites in a blood test that can identify signs of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) before visual symptoms appear.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear are an international centre for treatment and research and a teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School.

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the UK, currently affects more than 600,000 people and is common in those over the age of 50. This condition affects the macula, which is responsible for central part of your vision needed for activities such as reading and driving.

The team studied blood samples from 90 patients with early, intermediate or late stage AMD and compared them to individuals without AMD. They found 87 metabolites that were significantly different in people with AMD in comparison to people without AMD. These metabolites, which are substances that are produced during or take part in metabolism, also differed depending on the progression stage of AMD.

Significant metabolites that were identified included fatty acid compounds called lipids. “Previous research has suggested that lipids may be involved in the development of AMD, although the exact role of lipids in the disease process remains unclear” said Dr. Deeba Husain, a lead researcher and ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Further research into the role and involvement of lipids in AMD is necessary.

This research could aid in the earlier diagnosis of AMD, which could allow individuals to receive earlier and personalised treatment as treatments may differ depending on the stage of AMD. Symptoms of early stage AMD are not always obvious, so being able to identify biomarkers in the blood may improve our understanding of the way AMD develops, allow for earlier diagnoses and lead to new treatments.

The study published was published in Ophthalmology.